Albany (NY) 56, Pittsburgh 89

Albany coach Will Brown spent days leading up to his team’s

season-opener against No. 10 Pittsburgh trying to come up with ways

to stop star guard Ashton Gibbs.

Turns out, the Great Danes probably should have spent a little

more time on Travon Woodall.

The junior poured in a career-high 25 points as the Panthers

rolled to an 89-56 victory.

”We thought if we could do a decent job on Gibbs we’d be OK

because I thought Pitt would need time to find a second scorer,”

Brown said. ”I thought it might be (Lamar) Patterson. It might be

Woodall.”

Gerardo Suero led Albany with 17 points and Logan Aronhalt added

13 points and five rebounds, but the Great Danes struggled

defensively falling behind by 10 points in the game’s first 5

minutes and never recovering.

”You come in and play a team like Pitt and give up 47 points in

a half, the game is over because you’re not going to match them

point wise,” Brown said.

Woodall did his best Gibbs impression, making 5 of 7 3-pointers

to take some of the heat off Gibbs as Pitt remained unbeaten in

nine season openers under coach Jamie Dixon.

”Halfway through that game I thought Gibbs was wearing

(Woodall’s number) the way Woodall shot the ball,” Brown said.

Woodall managed to get by even without getting to the Petersen

Events Center as early as he’d like. He guessed he was about 30

minutes late thanks to some shoddy driving by teammate Dante

Taylor.

Once in the building, however, Woodall made up for lost time. He

shot 9 of 13 from the field to go with 10 assists and six

rebounds.

”I felt good, I’m working on something, working on my shot,”

Woodall said. ”I know a lot of guys will be keying on

Ashton.”

The Great Danes included.

Woodall’s previous career high was 19 against Wichita State two

years ago as a freshman. He’s spent much of the last two seasons

trying to get the ball to his more heralded teammates.

Yet the Panthers are rebuilding a bit in the frontcourt, meaning

they’ll have to rely on Woodall and Gibbs if they want to repeat as

Big East regular-season champions.

The duo appears up to the task, looking for each other regularly

on a night when Pitt’s 15th straight season opening win was never

in doubt.

When Woodall and Gibbs weren’t shooting, they were setting each

other up. Gibbs finished with 10 assists while Gibbs had a

career-high with seven, consistently finding open teammates

whenever the Great Danes threw two or sometimes three defenders in

his path.

”I was trying to create for myself, create for others as

well,” Gibbs said. ”At the end of the day I was penetrating and I

passed the ball. It was nothing out of the ordinary and my

teammates knocked down shots.”

Pitt cruised despite playing without sophomore forward J.J.

Moore, who was suspended one game for playing in an unsupervised

summer league game.

For one game, the Panthers didn’t need him.

”We came out on offense I thought very good for a first game,”

Dixon said.

The Great Danes were coming off a breakthrough season under

Brown. Albany went 16-16, a nine-win improvement off the season

before. The Great Danes return four starters and are picked to

finish fourth in the American East.

Yet they have been hit with injuries during preseason and it

showed. Forward Luke Devlin didn’t play for four months after

undergoing back surgery and had just two points and two rebounds in

26 minutes. Center John Puk had an infection in his shin earlier in

the week and went scoreless in 13 minutes.

”Those two guys are key to what we need to do,” Brown said.

”We got rattled early because I thought our perimeter guys would

be fine. But it’s the opener and they don’t lose in this

building.”